Friday, October 6, 2017

Old Alabama Stuff (15): A 1903 Souvenir of Birmingham, pt. 2

This post is part 2 of my exploration of Souvenir of Birmingham, Ala. published in the city in 1903. I've looked at some of the photos included in the book in part 1, and we'll see some more here. As I noted in that first part, a number of photos I haven't covered are also in the book, which was probably issued as a promotion of the city to potential investors. Also in part 1, I discussed the provenance of this particular copy of the book. 

Let's begin..

Is this the Ensley Works or Sloss Furnace, which are shown below, or Thomas Furnace, which is featured in the book but I have not included here? The book itself doesn't identify the cover photograph. 

Capitol Park is one of four names given to the public space now known as Linn Park. In the Elyton Land Company's original design for the city, the area was designated Central Park. The park was given a new name soon after to match the city's interest in getting Alabama's state capitol moved from Montgomery to Birmingham. Whatever happened with that?

In December 1918 during Woodrow Wilson's second term, the park was renamed after the President. In October 1988 the park was rededicated and named after banker and industrialist Charles Linn

St. Vincent's Hospital was founded in 1898 by a Catholic priest and four sisters of the Daughters of Charity of St.Vincent's DePaul. Until this building was dedicated in November 1900, the hospital operated in a rented mansion. The facility continues to operate as St. Vincent's Birmingham in modern buildings on the same site.

Hillman Hospital began operation in 1888 to meet the medical care needs of the city's poor whites and blacks. The hospital acquired its name in 1896 to honor benefactor Thomas Hillman, an important local businessman. The building shown above was dedicated in July 1903 and remains a landmark on the UAB campus. 

Construction on Highland Avenue began in the mid-1880's by the Elyton Land Company, which wanted to open up 1500 acres it owned for residential development. Over the years the long and winding road has seen dummy railroad lines, streetcars, parks, and a golf course as well as stately mansions and businesses along its route. The town of Highland included some of the street upon its formation in 1887; the entire area became part of Birmingham in 1893. 

Avondale Mills was founded in 1897 by Braxton Bragg Comer, future Governor of Alabama. The mill was constructed on 1st Avenue North in what became the suburb of Avondale and later a Birmingham neighborhood. The company eventually operated as many as 18 mills around the state employing 7000 people. The company survived until 2006.

This Birmingham mill became controversial in the early 20th century because it employed numerous children. The mill eventually closed in 1971 and was torn down in 1976.  

Sloss Furnace produced pig iron near downtown Birmingham from 1882 until 1971. Once abandoned, the site is now a National Historic Landmark and almost as iconic as Vulcan or the Civil Rights Institute. The Sloss Furnace Company was the work of James Withers Sloss, one of the founders of Birmingham.

The giant Ensley Works was an open-hearth steel mill opened in 1888 and operating until 1976. The plant was originally owned by the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company which became a subsidiary of U.S. Steel in 1907. For many years the mill was the largest producer of ingots and rails in the Southeastern United States. 

James B. Helm operated a successful portrait studio in Woodlawn. You can see his house here. In the 1920 U.S. Census a James B. Helm is listed as living on 1st Avenue and identified his profession as "portraits and framer." I presume he was this Helm buried in Birmingham's Forest Hill Cemetery.

L.P. Hill of Ensley, an independent town until annexed into Birmingham in 1910, and photographer R.T. Boyett were the publishers of this booklet. One of Boyett's students was famed local photographer O.V. Hunt. I have so far been unable to find more information on either Hill or Boyett. 

This page and several following give more detailed information about the economy, real estate, and institutions of the city. 

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